Five Things: September 2, 2021

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COVID-19 Long-Haulers Are Fighting for Their Future | Ed Yong

“Despite long-haulers’ fight for recognition, any discussion of the pandemic still largely revolves around two extremes—good health at one end, and hospitalization or death at the other. This ignores the hinterland of disability that lies in between, where millions of people are already stuck, and where many more may end up.”

Yong has been one of the more consistent and credible science journalists covering the COVID pandemic almost from the beginning, and his long read on Long COVID is an insightful one. It’s a subject of personal interest as my wife and I potentially fall into the category of “long haulers” — 8.5 months later, she still can’t smell, and I’m still dealing with random soreness and inflammation, not to mention my out-of-left-field stroke back in June.

Binaries are always the easy story to tell and they get told and re-told the most, but Yong does a great job of surfacing the deeper story of a pandemic whose long-term effects we still have zero clue about. Worse, we’ve made pitifully few moves to fully understand it because “getting back to normal” with as little change as possible remains the collective priority.


More Reasons to Hate the Dentist | The Politics of Everything

“Most of the insurance rates were established back in the 1960s and 1970s, and many insurance companies still adhere to those same rates today, the amounts that they’re willing to reimburse dentists for. So it becomes imperative to make up that difference somewhere.”

With apologies to family and friends in the business, I’ve often half-jokingly said dentistry is the most barbaric medical practice, so I was surprised to learn I wasn’t completely wrong! This podcast episode from The New Republic offers some great tidbits about the history of dentistry; how insurance drives a lot of questionable treatments we receive; and why finding a dentist you trust is just as important as with your general practitioner.

Shoutout to our family dentist who we’ve been seeing since we moved to NJ back in 2008, and who’s never recommended anything out of bounds for any of us. She doesn’t even do root canals herself!


A new frontier: Preserving computer and video games at the U-M Library | Sydney Hawkins

“Located in the basement of the Duderstadt Center on U-M’s North Campus, the CVGA has continued to maintain its dual mission of providing users access to their game collection while also preserving them for future research and scholarship. The interactive archive includes a variety of video, board and card games, as well as gaming consoles, microcomputers, displays, game controllers, supporting print materials and more.”

In an increasingly ephemeral digital world, archiving and preservation is becoming increasingly important. I’ve lost multiple dozens of articles over the years to websites that went under, including a couple of my own, and have been ecstatic whenever I see the Wayback Machine has preserved any of it.

University of Michigan’s effort to preserve and make accessible “more than 60 unique systems and 8,000 games… for research and play” may not seem important in the grand scheme of things, but as one of the most influential and growing mediums, it’s amazing and important work that’s as valuable as any book or film collection. Plus, David Carter has the best job in the world—as a video game archivist AND comics librarian!


Turns Out The Hardest Part of Making a Game Is…Everything | Rebekah Valentine

“Those I spoke to described challenges in making games look and sound good, storytelling, movement and interaction with objects, menus, save systems, multiplayer, and all sorts of intricacies of design that are so rarely discussed outside of studios themselves. Many noted that they’ve received angry player feedback about the topics they mentioned, with their audiences asking, ‘Why don’t you just do X?’ The answer is, almost always: because it’s really, really hard.”

One of the reasons I’m always skeptical about the latest [Random Company XX] getting into game development announcement is I know how incredibly difficult game development is —never mind marketing and ongoing support— and I’m just an enthusiast, not a developer. Valentine does a great job of breaking down some of the ideally invisible aspects of building immersive, interactive experiences in a collaborative, often high stakes environment, and you’ll never think about nor take for granted opening a door, choosing a response to progress the story, or saving your progress in that story the same way again.

One of the most interesting things to me is that some games are telling sophisticated stories on par with novels— in some cases, more compelling than the novels they may have been based on or inspired by— but storytelling too often gets the short end of the stick in the development process. I predict we’re less than 10 years away from games’ stories regularly being talked about the same way novels, TV, and film are, and more games being successfully translated to other media than vice versa.


Love is a battlefield | Colin Campbell

“You can see why this entire episode is about more than just a storyline in what would otherwise be a fairly obscure dating game. It’s about the responsibilities of interactive storytellers, and the fluid boundaries of what is appropriate in games that speak to romance in all its forms and complexities.”

Campbell’s “How Games are Changing The World” is one of my favorite newsletters—his fluid, arguably too-frequent schedule and focus bolstered by his strong, informed perspective and genuine belief that games have value make him a pleasure to read, even if I end up marking too many of them as unread until I can carve out time to read them.

Whether it’s digging into the hot topic du jour, or aggregating interesting insights from around the gaming world, or both, he’s a valuable voice in the industry. If you have any interest in developing a better understanding of what I firmly believe is the most interesting sector of media, he’s one of your must-reads.

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